Just when it seemed 2020 couldn't get worse, a particularly awful wildfire season has ignited across California, setting our already dystopian world ablaze and leaving the Bay Area to choke on what is officially the most polluted air in the world.
Sparked by a series of rare, dry lightning storms last week, hundreds of fires have already scorched nearly one million acres across our region. As of press time on Monday, containment is at just 10 percent for the SCU Lightning Complex (in Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties); 22 percent for the LNU Lightning Complex (in Sonoma, Napa, and Solano counties); and 9 percent for the CZU (in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties). Smaller fires have also sparked in Marin, Monterey, Butte, and Tuolumne counties, and beyond.
We encourage you to follow NBC Bay Area, which is keeping an updated list of evacuations, evacuation centers, and maps of the burn zones; Cal Fire for information hotlines and safety precautions; and also the San Francisco Chronicle's Air Quality Map.
We also refuse to sit helpless and just watch as our home state burns. We have updated this 2019 article to reflect resources for 2020: what and where to donate, how you can volunteer, and other ways to help victims of the Northern California wildfires now. We will do our best to keep this guide updated. If you have a helpful tip, please email email@example.com or leave us a comment on Facebook or Instagram.
Where to Donate Money for Northern California Wildfire Relief
Want to donate? Cash is king (gift cards, too). Here's where to direct your generous funds.
California Fire Foundation's Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) program is accepting donations to bring immediate, short-term financial aid to victims of wildfires. Through your tax-deductible donations, firefighters can provide gift cards, at a minimum of $250 each, to eligible victims throughout the state. // cafirefoundation.org
California Community Foundation's Wildfire Relief Fund supports immediate, mid- and long-term recovery efforts and has raised over $24 million since 2003. Tax-deductible donations support key organizations and community funds as well as to support animals afflicted by the fires. They also have a resource page for Northern California. // calfund.org
Volunteer with the American Red Cross
With Cal Fire maxed out, the American Red Cross is actively seeking thousands of volunteers to help with food donations, shelter upkeep, and more throughout California.
Join a virtual presentation outlining the various Disaster Service opportunities across the Bay Area at 4pm Thursday, Aug. 28th. Applications are being accepted online and in person. (The Red Cross also accepting monetary donations, as well.) // redcross.org
How to Donate Food, Clothing + Goods to Wildfire Victims
Before you dump off your old clothes at the local shelter, it's always best to call ahead to evacuation centers, shelters, and food banks before venturing out with your donation. First, find out what they need—and what they don't. (Copious amounts of of food went to waste at Los Angeles fire stations in 2018 because there wasn't enough manpower to distribute it.)
Clothing: Especially in the age of Covid, all clothing donations should be either new or appropriately cleaned. Socks and underwear are especially appreciated—new ones only, please.
Food: Non-perishables are preferred. Some fire stations and food banks will accept homemade food, but it's best to avoid using any ingredients prone to allergic reactions (nuts, cinnamon, shellfish, etc.) for safety reasons.
Toiletries and personal care items are important.
Find a local food bank at cdss.ca.gov/food-banks.
Find a local shelter at maps.redcross.org.
Find an evacuation center at nbcbayarea.com.
Help the Animals Afflicted by Wildfires in NorCal
We humans aren't the only ones being deeply impacted by these record-breaking blazes. Wildlife are being destroyed and left without habitats crucial for finding food and safety, and evacuated house pets are also in need of food and shelter. If you wish to donate food and supplies, or have an animal that needs care, please call, email, or DM your local animal shelter before you show up.
UC Davis Veterinary Hospital is caring for animals of all kinds injured by the LNU Lightning Complex fires even as many of its students, faculty and staff are being personally affected by the fires. // Find more info at vetmed.ucdavis.edu and donate directly to their Veterinary Catastrophic Relief Fund.
Sonoma County Animal Services is currently housing small animals displaced by the fires. Please call ahead to schedule an appointment for animal drop-off. Animal fosters are also needed. // 1247 Century Ct., Santa Rosa, 707-565-7100, sonomacounty.ca.gov.
Sonoma County Fair & Event Center is homing horses and large livestock. Animals should be brought through Gate 7 off of Aston Avenue. Extra helping hands would be appreciated. // 1350 Bennett Valley Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-545-4200; find more info at sonomacountyfair.com.
The Peninsula Humane Society is working in tandem with the San Mateo County Large Animal Evacuation Group to house both small and large animals at Cow Palace in Daly City. Sign up online to volunteer, or call the evacuation group: Laura (650-450-0520), Robin (650-450-0516), and Emilie (650-773-8780) with questions.
Santa Cruz Animal Shelter is accepting stray pet drop-off and can also assist with pickup by calling 831-454-7200. Need food for your pet? Swing by their free pet food pantry on the first Tuesday of the month, 10am to noon. // 1000 Rodriguez St., Santa Cruz. scanimalshelter.org
Support the Recovery of Big Basin Redwoods State Park + Santa Cruz Redwood Forests
Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California's oldest state park, in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains, has been badly burned by the CZU Lightning Complex. The Mercury News reports that while many of its ancient redwoods still stand, many have been reduced to half their mighty height while others have fallen, and the parks' HQ has been burned to rubble.
Wilderness lovers who wish to help support immediate recovery efforts at Big Basin as well as the long-term recovery and reforestation of the Santa Cruz Mountains region, can make tax-deductible donations to the Sempervirens Fund at sempervirens.org.